NBA Mid-Season Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions: Sixers make surprising ECF run

Making mid-season Eastern Conference NBA Playoff Predictions.
Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers
Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages
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Semifinal: 1st seed Boston Celtics vs. 4th seed New York Knicks

This could be the start of a renewed, divisional rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. The cities have as much history as any geographical rivalry could have. Recently, however, there hasn't been much rivalry between the two when it comes to the playoffs. In fact, the last time the two teams met in the playoffs was back in 2013, when Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were leading the Knicks.

Boston will be coming off of a relatively short series against the Orlando Magic. Without much physical wear and tear coming from the Magic's lack of defensive disruptors, the Celtics should come into this series fresh. The Knicks, on the other hand, will have battled a tough six-game series against a defensive-first Cleveland Cavaliers team. This could be a big factor, especially when you add in the fact Knick's Head Coach Tom Thibodeau likes to play his starters A LOT. The Celtics could have more energy in their legs at least in the first couple of games, which would result in more 50/50 ball wins and overall effort play wins.

There is no denying that there is talent all around this Knicks team. Knicks fans have a team that they can feel truly contends with the best of the NBA. Jalen Brunson is deserving of All-NBA honors this year, even if he'll only be an All-Star reserve. Forwards OG Anunoby and Julius Randle provide an intriguing punch, and Villanova alumni Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo are do-it-all-energy-shifters on both ends of the court. Is this enough to stop the best team in the NBA?

The Boston Celtics are rolling through the regular season. Joe Mazzulla has taken ownership of the play of his team, and he holds himself just as accountable as his players. His step forward in leadership has been a difference-maker for the team this year. The offseason additions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis have earned the Celtics the best NET Rating in the NBA, with a current rating of +10.2. The Celtics are currently second in both Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating. These metrics matter and are good measures to look at when predicting who will win a series.

This is another matchup where, on paper, it looks great, but might not be as great when it's played on the court. The Celtics have the size at guard to throw Brunson off his game, they have the wings to counter anything the Knicks can throw at them and they have a huge mismatch at the center position with Mitchell Robinson's season-ending injury. I just don't see many mismatches the Knicks can truly take advantage of that will allow them to win four games in a seven-game series.

The Celtics are 3-0 against the Knicks this year already. If you want to argue that it's not fair to judge to assume they will continue winning against the Knicks since none of the games played against them included OG Anunoby, fine. However, in 21 career games against the Celtics, Anunoby averages 8.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and one assist per game with a career (+/-) of -73 points. I don't think that he is going to be the reason why the Knicks will upset the Celtics, and since the Knicks already struggle with beating the Celtics, I'm going to continue to roll with the Celtics. I'll take the C's in a relatively quick series.

Prediction: Boston Celtics win 4-1